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Kerry McLean: Why I prefer kitchen scales to bathroom scales

Bake Off has given me perfect recipe to tuck in to latest and tastiest obsession

By Kerry McLean

Two years ago I had a milestone birthday. I can still picture the cake being presented at my party, with 40 giant candles blazing away on top. The heat coming off it was something shocking and leaning over too far, in an attempt to blow them all out in one go, I heard a soft little sizzle and one of my eyebrows went up in smoke. Not the best start to my fifth decade.

For some, reaching a big birthday, especially one with a zero at the end, is a catalyst for change, a reason to dig themselves out of what they see as a rut and change aspects of their lives. Not me. It took me years to fashion the well-fitting, snug little rut I'm happy to live in now and it'll take a lot more than a bit of birthday cake to hoist me out of it.

I had my party years, travelling the world and working in some weird and wonderful places but right now I love my daily routine, even the chores that I probably shouldn't - walking my gorgeous dog, emptying my son's trouser pockets to see how many adopted snails he's brought home that day, attempting to find the floor in my teenage daughter's bedroom (rumour has it that her carpet is red but there's no confirmed sightings), going through the bath and bedtime routines to get the children all tucked in and off to the Land of Nod.

However, the one thing I did decide to change when I hit 40 was to put an end to my naturally procrastinating ways. Instead of thinking: "Oh, I'd love to give that a go", and then doing little about it, I have challenged myself to sign up for lessons and learn a new skill every year.

I have learnt Spanish. Not to the level where I can discuss world affairs but if you want to order a ham and cheese sandwich while commenting on the colour of socks Juan and Maria are wearing, I'm yer gal.

I've learnt how to sew. Four Christmases ago I asked my husband for a sewing machine, having watched The Great British Sewing Bee and deciding clothes-making would become my new hobby. A couple of years later I finally lifted the machine out of the box for the very first time, had a few lessons and can now run up an apron or some bunting like nobody's business. It'll take me a while before I can transform curtains into matching outfits for the whole McLean clan in the style of The Sound of Music but, dear family, be warned, that's where I'm heading!

Most recently my new obsession has been baking and so I've been glued with even more interest than usual to the Great British Bake Off. Having been an avid fan since series one, I've got all the lingo off pat. I know my patisserie from my pasties and my brioches from my barmbrack. I could talk a good talk but meanwhile at home, I could have burnt water.

In my first class, I was taught how to make soda bread, actual soda bread that tastes good and you can eat without fear of food poisoning. The only problem now is that I make it every few days, in fact I bake most days if I can squeeze a bit of spare time out of somewhere. I make gorgeous caramel squares, an impressive Dundee cake and, even if I do say so myself, I make stunningly misshapen but tasty chocolate profiteroles. Don't get me wrong, I've had my failures. I attempted to make pizza from scratch. I'm not sure where I went wrong but my boy told me: "No offence mummy but that's the worst tasting thing I've ever eaten." Thanks son, none taken.

But in the main, I've surprised myself by how well it's going. And the result of all this baking? Well, let's just say the kitchen scales are a lot more fun to look at than the bathroom ones and I've come to realise that for bakers, there's less chance of a soggy bottom than a widening one.

Set down my apron? When I'm having this much fun? Now that really would be half baked.


The Kerry McLean Afternoon Show, Monday to Thursday, BBC Radio Ulster from 3pm-5pm

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